power of the chess board pt. 2

via a comment on susan polgar's blog, i found this interesting item

The chess set designed to help POWs escape

They may look like worn pieces of an old cardboard chess set, but these little discs contain a prisoner of war escape kit.

When prized open a white bishop from the 'Ajax Chessmen' reveals a tiny compass hidden inside.

And a silk map is believed to still be concealed in the cardboard tube.

Even the innocent handwritten message on the tube which contained the 32 pieces chess pieces is in code.

The chessmen sets were sent to POW camps throughout World War II by MI9 and government department CT6 to help prisoners escape their German captors.

In Colditz kits helped 316 escape attempts which saw 32 men make it all the way home.

Very few of the kits from the early 1940s still exist. This set, which does not contain a board, is being sold at Bonham's auction house in Oxford on December 12.

'These sets are very rare for obvious reasons,' said Robin Lucas, Bonham's resident expert on militaria. 'They are not made of very durable materials so it is amazing that the pieces have survived.

'If there was a board included it could have contained a map, or there might be a silk map still hidden within the tube. But we cannot find that out without X-raying the cardboard or breaking it open.'

It is the first time a cardboard chess set like this has come up for auction in Britain.

Mr Lucas said: 'We know of packs of cards being sold which had different pieces of a map on the back of each card - when assembled they made a complete map.

'There were all different kinds of escape kits smuggled in. Blankets were sent with clothes patterns drawn in invisible ink. These would become clear when soaked in water.

'This meant prisoners could stitch together civilian clothing to wear once they had escaped.

'Monopoly boards and the boards of other games were often used to conceal maps in - when the top was peeled away it would reveal a map underneath.'

POW camps would often have an officer in charge of the escape kit being smuggled in. They would comb parcels to find the games which contained escape aids.

Charles Fraser Smith of government department CT6 and Christopher Clayton Hutton of MI9 where each responsible for designing the methods by which escape kits could be sent to camps.

They never tampered with Red Cross parcels because of concerns the Germans would stop these reaching the prisoners if they did discover items hidden in them.

Instead they sent the games from fictitious London addresses, including buildings which had been destroyed by bombs.

Messages written on the packages and printed labels would carry clues for prisoners.

On this kit the name 'Ajax' alludes to the 'Trojan Horse'. Another sign of the escape aids contained was the phrase 'Patent applied for' and a large full stop point.

Three kisses in the message 'Many happy hours, all my love Dorothy xxx' which was written on the tube, could have indicated the compass was hidden in the third piece inside.

It is not know which camp this game was sent to or how it ended up back in Britain. Bonhams is selling the set for a private seller.

They are estimated to reach up to £500, but are likely to go for much more.


the power of the chess board

from the boylston chess blog we get this entertaining tidbit about a woman in china who used her chessboard and pieces against a rat infestation..

Chess Supercomputer Beaten Up By More Popular Computer

Chess Supercomputer Beaten Up By More Popular Computer

KATONAH, NY—IBM's Deep Blue, the chess supercomputer that recently contended with world chess champion Gary Kasparov, was beaten up Monday by a Macintosh Performa 6400CD, one of the most popular home computers on the market.The attack occured at approximately 3 p.m., shortly after a 60 Minutes piece on Deep Blue finished taping at IBM headquarters. The Performa reportedly entered Deep Blue's work station and pounded aggressively at the cabinet housing the chess computer's logic board, spilled coffee on its keyboard and inserted several paper clips into its ventilation slots. Deep Blue was not badly damaged.

Deep Blue's programmers expressed outrage over the incident. "This kind of thing makes me furious, as Deep Blue is extremely sensitive to teasing from more popular computers," said programmer David Wembley. "Almost as sensitive as it is to Capablanca gambits."

Added Wembley: "We are currently coding a subroutine into Deep Blue explaining to it that when you're the best at something, other computers sometimes have difficulty with that and feel they have to take you down a notch."

Macintosh spokesman Guy Kawasaki described the beating as "unfortunate," but added that "when you're as powerful and popular as the 6400, with its huge 2.4GB hard drive, lightning-quick 200MHz PowerPC 603e processor and sales topping $150 million in the past three months alone, sometimes you wind up stepping on some toes."

Some industry observers believe the Performa's bullying is motivated by and indicative of deep personal insecurities.

"The Performa, one of the most popular home computers in the history of the industry, has much to be proud of," Mac World columnist and licensed therapist Mitch Gallagher said. "But for all of its success, I believe the Performa still harbors a lot of nagging self-doubt, because no matter what it does, its sales figures still always seem to lag behind those of its PC-compatible peers."

"Sometimes," continued Gallagher, "all the storage capacity in the world isn't enough to make a computer feel good about itself."

It is also rumored that things have not been going well at Apple headquarters, leading some to believe that the Performa may be under a good deal of stress. "Financial losses and layoffs at Apple have probably made the Performa feel as though its world has been turned upside-down," Wired's Ted Fraschilla said. "When that happens, a computer can feel as though it has no control over its environment. This may have caused the Performa to commit what amounts to exercising control over Deep Blue."

Employees laid off in recent months include key members of the Performa's development team, programmers the PC had known all its life.

If the Performa is involved in more misbehavior, the Federal Trade Commission may mandate a recall. Apple has urged the FTC that such an action would only make things worse for the Performa instead of better.

The last thing Performa needs right now is to be told that it is a bad computer," Apple president Gilbert Amelio said. "A recall would in effect do that. We are sure that Performa owners will be pleased in the future by the performance of their PC, both in its ability to perform assigned tasks and in how it gets along with other machines."

Sure fire opening for Kramnik

Howard Stern, Redux

a while back i made a post concerning howard stern and chess, and thought it would be a one time deal.. well, i was wrong.. chessnovice comes through once again and reports on howard stern talking about the kramnik blunder.. here is the link to the audio clip, but take a visit to chessnovice and read his write up..

Ivanchuk Leading Chess Championship in Cuba

Ivanchuk Leading Chess Championship in Cuba

Havana, Nov 28 (ACN) Grand Master (GM) Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine 2,714 ELO points), is leading the Capablanca in Memoriam Chess Tournament, in full swing at Havana's Riviera Hotel.

On Monday, Ivanchuk defeated Cuban GM Jesus Nogueiras (2,554 ELO, black pieces) in 52 moves. The match was a lesson in positioning until halfway through when the imagination and creativity of the Ukrainian led him to victory in the match and an increase in his tournament lead, Granma daily reported.

In another closely watched match, GM Evgueny Bareev (2,683), playing with the white pieces, gave Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez (2,655) his first loss in 58 moves. The Russian moved into third place in the tournament.

Cuba's GM Lazaro Bruzon (2,648) saved face for the locals by defeating GM Kamil Miton (2,638) of Poland in 43 moves.

At the end of Monday's play, the tournament standings are as follows: Ivanchuk 5 points; Miton 4; Bareev 3.5; Leinier and Bruzon 3, Noguerias 2.5.

On Tuesday, Kamil plays Bareev; Leinier faces Ivanchuk and Noguerias vs. Bruzon. (C.W.)

Early risers growing wiser with chess

Early risers growing wiser with chess

The Sherwood Gazette

Looking for a new ploy to get the kids out of bed in the morning?

Parents at Sherwood's elementary schools have found one. Chess.

On any given Friday at 7 a.m. in the Hopkins Elementary library, around 40 students gather around tables and set up cloth chess boards on the floor. A parent volunteer gives a brief lesson on technique, and then the games begin.

"Chess is very helpful with math skills and critical thinking," according to Kevin Henry, who serves on Sherwood's school board and volunteers with Hopkins' chess club. "It also teaches patience."

With 42 members and growing, Hopkins chess club continues to grow, but it isn't alone. Each of the district's schools has a club, and at the high school level, students are eligible to play in state and regional tournaments.

Hopkins' chess club starts in October each school year, and meets through spring break. Along with Henry, parent volunteer Penny Harper, teacher Paul Stecher and high school student Michael Riches also help the group.

"My philosophy is, if they want to show up and learn, we'll teach them," Henry said. “We are all here to learn, and to teach each other.”

Next January, 10 students from Hopkins' chess club will be chosen to play in the second annual Jack Weeks Cup Chess Tournament against teams from Middleton and Archer Glen Elementary schools. The following week, the team will participate in the Regional Chess for Success tournament against elementary schools from Tigard, Tualatin, and Sherwood for the opportunity to compete in the State Tournament.


Oh how the mighty have fallen

if youre reading this blog, you are a chess fan, and by now youve heard about the kramnik-fritz match, and how kramnik made suce a preschool blunder.. far be it from me to have a scheudenfreud moment, but its good to see that even the world champion screws up big.. confessions of a chess novice, which is a blog by a “regular” chess player, has good sum up of what happened and what it means for the patzers of the world..

The Homeless Chess Guy

ive seen this guy in several cities in the usa and around the world.. some homeless dude who instead of just “asking” for change sets up a board and will play a blitz game for a dollar or two or five (or whatever the currency is in that country) and if he wins he keeps it.. well a blog called chess for blood has an interesting write up of such a meeting and here is a pic.. thought it was worth passing along..


Bulgarian Minister Awards Prison Chess Tournament Winners

What I want to know is if ChessBase.com or TWIC will post the PGN’S!!!!!

Bulgarian Minister Awards Prison Chess Tournament Winners

Politics: 23 November 2006, Thursday.

Bulgaria’s Justice Minister Georgi Petkanov awarded Thursday the winners in the first national chess tournament for prisoners.

Inmates received their awards in the Sofia prison.

Varna Prison inmates took first place in the team contest with 11 points, the second place was for the Burgas prisoners, who won 9 points. Sofia prison residents scored third with only half a point behind.

In individual games the first place winner was again from the Varna Prison, Lyubomir Stoyanov.

The winners were awarded with television sets and sports equipment.

Inmates from all the prisons asked the Minister if they will be cut a few months off their sentences if they win a first place in the tournament. Petkanov said he would dwell on the question.


Another promising star for the future..

Meet the chess prodigy

It may be a game traditionally dominated by men, but one eight-year-old chess champ has proved that girls can be queen of the check-mate by trouncing her male opposition.

Anouska Nichols is making a name for herself in Norfolk’s junior chess circles and her latest triumph is taking the Norfolk under-9 chess champion title.

The Norwich youngster won her age-group outright with six wins out of six at the Norfolk Junior Chess Championship.

Anouska, a Year 4 pupil at Norwich High School for Girls, is the first girl in recent years to win a Norfolk championship which is open to boys.

She said: “I really enjoy playing chess - I practice a lot at school and at home. Boys are sometimes very hard to beat and a girl hasn’t won the competition for a long time so I am really pleased to have won all six of my games.” Astonishing figures prove that chess is a male-dominated game - 95pc of registered players in Britain are men. A noticeable exception was rising British female chess star Jessie Gilbert, who was just 19 when she fell eight floors to her death from a hotel window in the Czech Republic in July.

Despite the lack of female players at the highest level of chess, it is widely acknowledged that at primary school level large numbers of both girls and boys enjoy the game in the county. Ten-year-old Riddhi Shenoy, also a pupil at Norwich High School, almost repeated the winning performance in the under-11 championship, held at the same time at the City of Norwich School.

Despite coming equal with the winner in her competition, she was placed second on tie-break and was runner-up.

The school’s chess club leader and music teacher, Stephen Orton, said: “Altogether 10 Norwich High School girls took part in the competition. They are all very dedicated to the game and all played well. Let’s hope we can give the boys a run for their money again next year.”


From the Middle Ages through the 1700s, chess was a popular social pastime for men and women of the upper classes.

Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I played and Thomas Jefferson wrote several times about Benjamin Franklin ’s playing chess in Paris with socially important women, including the Duchess of Bourbon , who was “a chess player of about his force”.

By the 1800s the chess world had become dominated by men up until the 20th century when the game became more popular with women again, although they only made up 5pc of registered tournament players.

Georgia produced some of the best women chessplayers of the late 20th century, including the first female International Grandmaster Nona Gaprindashvili , who was awarded a special title in 1978.

By the mid-1980s a number of women were competing regularly in events with men. In 1991, Susan Polgar became the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title on the same basis as the men.

But as of 2005, no woman has ever been the world champion and only a handful made it in to the top 500.

In September 2005, Susan Polgar’s younger sister GM Judit Polgar of Hungary, then rated 8 in the world by the international chess organization FIDE , became the first woman to play for the World Championship title.

The Norfolk county junior team has a match in Kettering on November 25. Any players interested should contact Stephen Orton on 01603 621184.

Have you excelled in a competition recently? E-mail kim.briscoe@ archant.co.uk or call her on 01603 772419.

Capablanca Memorial

Capablanca Memorial

The XLI Capablanca Memorial had to move from its normal dates in May due to the Turin Olympiad. This years event takes place 19th-30th November 2006 in the hotel Habana Riviera. The top event is a 6 player double round robin with Vassily Ivanchuk, Evgeny Bareev, Kamil Miton, Ruben Felgaer, Lenier Dominguez and Lazaro Bruzon.


La 41 edición del Torneo Memorial Capablanca, quien fuera campeón mundial de ajedrez ( 1921-1927), se celebrará en los salones del hotel Habana-Riviera, de la capital cubana, hasta el venidero 30 de noviembre.

De acuerdo con los organizadores del torneo, citados por JIT Online, en el contexto del evento se le otorgará un reconocimiento especial al presidente Fidel Castro, en ocasión de coincidir la lid con el aniversario 40 de la Olimpiada Mundial de Ajedrez, efectuada en La Habana , y a personalidades cubanas del juego ciencia y campeones locales de la disciplina.

El grupo Elite de este Capablanca será el más fuerte de los organizados en Cuba, con la presencia de uno de los monstruos sagrados del ajedrez, el GM ucraniano Vassily Ivanchuk, sexto lugar del mundo, con 2 741 puntos de ELO; el GM ruso Evgeny Bareev ,( 2 683); el GM polaco Kamil Milton, ( 2 638); el argentino Rubén Felgaer (2 591); mientras por Cuba actuarán el GM Leinier Domínguez ( 2 655) y Lázaro Bruzón, ( 2 648), lo que le da al grupo, en su conjunto, un ELO de 2 660 puntos. Estos ajedrecistas se enfrentarán todos contra todos, a doble vuelta.

Los restantes grupos del torneo contarán con fuertes GM cubanos y extranjeros, de Europa y Latinoamérica, y también estarán presente dos GM y dos MI cubanas, los que lidiarán por el Sistema Suizo, a nueve rondas.

Cuba’s Bruzon Becomes Ibero-American Chess Champ

Cuba’s Bruzon Becomes Ibero-American Chess Champ
By Maryla García Santos

Huelva, Spain, Nov 18, (P26).-Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon won the title of the First Ibero-American Chess Championship after beating Spain’s IM Manuel Perez in the second game of the final match.

Playing with whites, Bruzon had his opponent’s king surrender in 45 moves, according to information posted on the tournament’s website.

The Cuban chess player was unbeaten during the whole tournament. During the qualifying round, Bruzon held the lead of Pool A with three wins and two draws, accumulating 4 of 5 possible points.

In the semifinal match, he beat Ecuador’s GM Carlos Matamoros in the rapid games after having tied in the classic games.

And in the final match, he drew with his rival in the first classic game, but defeated him in the second one.

Cuban GM Reynaldo Vera, who also participated in the Championship, shared the 13th and 14 th positions with Dominican IM Ramon Mateo

The First Ibero-American Chess Championship was held from November 10 through 18 in the halls of the Las Mercedes convent, in Ayamonte, in the Spanish city of Huelva.

Twenty-four players—including 12 grandmasters and 8 international masters—from 16 nations took part in the tournament.

Duel of Cubans highlights Turkey Bowl chess event

here is a little more on cuban chess, two players who defected.. when i lived in miami, i played at lugo’s academy

Duel of Cubans highlights Turkey Bowl chess event

By Paola Iuspa-Abbott
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

November 20, 2006

Boca Raton · Growing up in Cuba, they spent countless hours playing chess together. They joined the national chess team and traveled the world until defecting in the 1990s.

Julio Becerra’s and Blas Lugo’s paths crossed again Sunday, as they faced off for the title at the fifth annual Turkey Bowl Chess Championship at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Becerra, who defeated Lugo, is Florida’s top chess player. They shared the weekend with about 180 players competing in different categories and ranging in age from 6 to 92, said Jon Haskel, the event coordinator.

During the final round Sunday afternoon, participants left their chessboards to watch Becerra and Lugo play. Five, 10 or 20 minutes would pass before Becerra, 33, or Lugo, 39, made a move.

Becerra is a grandmaster, the highest ranking in the chess world. There are about 60 in the United States. He makes a living playing in tournaments and giving private lessons. Lugo owns Miami International Chess Academy.

Becerra and Lugo said they began training professionally at 14.

In Cuba, children played chess in school, International Master Renier Gonzalez said. A former member of the national team, he defected from Cuba in 1999 and teaches chess at Davie-based Nova Southeastern University and Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. He attended the tournament to support students competing in the event.

Growing up in Cuba, Gonzalez took mandatory chess classes in second and sixth grades. He liked it and joined a chess academy, which were everywhere in his neighborhood, he said.

“Cuba follows the Russian training system,” Gonzalez said.

Russia had close ties with Cuba for more than three decades until the fall of communism in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Russia generates the most world champions in chess, and Cuban players studied the Russian approach, Becerra said.

“It elevated our playing level,” he said.

Russian-born Boris Veksler, who participated in the Turkey Bowl, said Cuba had talented players long before the Russian influence.

“Before Russia, Cuba had Capablanca,” he said, referring to José Raúl Capablanca, world champion from 1921 to 1927.

In the FAU room filled with focused minds and almost complete silence, race, age and nationality became irrelevant.

“It is the meeting of the minds,” said Haskel, who got involved in professional chess as his son, Jeffrey, 14, became one of the top players in the country.

Paola Iuspa-Abbott can be reached at piuspa@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6631.


The Michael Tall memorial

Big tip o’ the hat to Boylston Chess Club for this post, on the Michael Tall memorial tournament

Aronyan Tied With Mammadyarov

November 8, 2006, A1Plus - In the chess tournament after Michael Tall in Moscow Armenian chess grand master Levon Aronyan tied with Shaqriyar Mammadyarov from Azerbaijan. Aronyan played with black draughts.

The game ended after the 68th step. Aronyan currently tops the list with Gelfand and Morozevich with 1.5 points each. Today Levon will play with Peter Swidler from Russia.

Kids say the darnest things

From ChessUnderground, we get a collection of quotes from elementary chess teams…

A bit of humor..

So today I was coaching one of my elementary chess teams. We had a tough day of “ladder” matches where students play those next to them on the weekly ladder to move up or down. The battles were very heated near the top as things had solidified and the stronger students were playing each other. Here are some comments I overheard during the club play that just cracked me up:

“…my empire… is nothing now…”
-R. after hanging his queen with his king in a deathly ill position near the side of the board.

“Queens check in…” Ro. then takes his opponent’s queen off the board with his bishop, “…they don’t check out!”

“…uhm… I made a big mistake.”
-G. sitting around looking at a position where he is down a queen, rook, and knight.

“I’m trying to give her her queen back but she just won’t take it!”
-A sympathetic Ga. who had relieved his opponent of nearly all her pieces.

“Coach, I’m controlling the d-file!”
-E., who had a queen and two rooks on the d-file. Her opponent had a king and two pawns left, and could be mated at any moment… but dangit, she owned that d-file!


Backyard Chess

In Ellicott City, chain-saw chess is a backyard pursuit

By Janet Gilbert

November 10, 2006

Bobby Fischer may have said it best: “You can only get good at chess if you love the game.”

From the looks of his backyard patio, Mike Kelley of Ellicott City must be quite a chess player. He built a stone-and-granite chessboard measuring 8 feet square in a 12-foot-by-18-foot patio, and he carved all of the game’s 32 pieces with a chain saw. Tucked under the canopy of a huge maple, the giant chess set has an almost surreal look - as if pulled from an early edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. One can’t help but wonder: Will a giant rabbit emerge from behind that tree?

Instead, Kelley’s friend, Ywain Ferguson of Catonsville - “Fergy” - appeared for a quick game. Fergy would often stop by to help with construction of the platform patio chessboard, which was begun June 10 and was completed at the end of July.

“But sometimes, I would just be playing with [Kelley’s two] dogs and hanging out, maybe firing up the grill,” he said.

Kelley and Fergy are enjoying the chess set these days - playing two or three times a week. “I’m learning the finer art to the game from the master,” Fergy said.

“When it snows, we’ll probably just shovel it off to play,” he added.

Right now, the memory of the summer project is fresh.

“Betsy [Kelley’s wife] wanted a deck, but I didn’t want to put a deck in,” said Kelley, who liked the idea of a patio.

Betsy Kelley said she was concerned about a patio being level because of the maple tree’s roots.

“It just kind of happened,” Mike Kelley said of the elevated chessboard. “It’s like a patio, but at the same time, you can play chess.”

“Did you mention that the only way we let you do it was [a deal] to get us a hot tub?” asked his wife.

“Yeah, they laughed at me, they teased me,” Kelley said of the reactions of his wife and two daughters to the chessboard idea. Kelley, who has a business degree and an aptitude for mathematics, had no experience in construction or carving before creating the outdoor chess set.

“We [Fergy and Kelley] kind of needed the exercise,” he said, of the decision to take on a project that would involve hard physical labor. The patio chessboard sits on a frame of cinderblocks with slabs of granite around the perimeter and is filled with three pickup truck loads of gravel that Kelley and Fergy shoveled in.

“Yeah, it took three loads of gravel, and 19 bottles of insect repellent,” Fergy said, recalling the summer’s particularly vicious mosquitoes.

When it came time to create the chess pieces, Kelley took out the wooden pieces of a chess set from Tijuana, Mexico, that he has had since he was 8. He did precise calculations to fashion each piece for his patio in scale to his childhood set.

“The first one [the model of a pawn], I did in a skeleton of cardboard,” Kelley said. Later, he experimented with fiberglass, but he said, “After the third fiberglass one, my hands were on fire, my eyes were burning.”

Kelley made a batch of modeling compound, formed it to the shape of a pawn and molded fiberglass sheets around it to create a mold, into which he poured plaster of Paris.

He was not happy with the results and decided to look into wood for his pieces.

“The Howard County Fair [in August] had a guy who was a chain saw master,” said Kelley. “I talked to him and asked him what it would cost to do the pieces for me. He said the smallest pieces” would cost $250 each. And “that he could probably do the set” for $8,000.

The artist encouraged Kelley to try carving the pieces himself.

Kelley went back to the fair three times to ask questions of the carver. Then he purchased a “carving bar” for his chain saw. He also bought a lightweight chain saw - weighing 7 1/2 pounds - for carving. Next, he needed to find wood of the proper circumference for his chess pieces.

“I found some trees down in a park and dragged them out of the woods,” he said. Later, he explained his project to a woman who works at Alpha Ridge Landfill, and she invited him to her family’s farm to pick up poplar logs.

Kelley created cardboard templates for each chess piece. He positioned the template on the logs, made markings and started carving. .

“The last pieces are a lot better than the first ones,” he said.

Kelley carved in his yard and on his driveway until he had finished the pieces. He amassed an 8- to 10-inch-high pile of sawdust that was 10 feet in circumference.

The set took about five weeks and was completed in mid-September. The pieces range in size from the king, which stands 30 inches high and 11 inches in diameter, to the pawns, which are 14 inches high and 7 inches in diameter.

Kelley’s daughter, Maureen, 20, a junior at University of Maryland, College Park, said, “At first, I thought the whole thing was a little … stupid. But then, as it came together, I thought it was a pretty neat thing because he’d never carved before.”

Though she has not played chess in a while, she said, “I wouldn’t mind playing now that it’s out there.”

Excellent opening move.

Mikhail Tal “I drink, I smoke, I gamble, I chase girls — but postal chess is one vice I don’t have.”

Mikhail Tal on Wikipedia

And from ChessBase.com, :

The Immortality of Mikhail Tal
09.11.2006 Had he lived, had he not succumbed to chronic ill health and an excessive life style, today Mikhail Nekhemievich Tal, the “Magician from Riga”, would have celebrated his 70th birthday – today, on the first free day of the Tal Memorial tournament in Moscow. The greatest attacking player in history is sadly missed but never forgotten. In memoriam.

In memoriam: Mikhail Tal, 1936–1992

Mikhail Nekhemievich Tal was born in Riga, Latvia, on November 9, 1936. He learnt to play chess by watching his father when he was eight, and soon became a member of the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers chess club. When he was 12 he received training from Alexander Koblencs, and his game improved rapidly. At 14 he qualified for the Latvian Championship and the next year he finished ahead of his trainer. At 16 he won his first national title and was awarded the title of candidate master.

In 1956, before his 20th birthday, Mikhail Tal had qualified for the USSR Chess Championship, which he finished joint fifth. In the following year he became the youngest player to win the championship. Even though he had not fulfilled the grandmaster norms completely – he had not played enough games against non-Soviet opponents – FIDE awarded him the title in that year. Tal won the Soviet Championship again the following year, and won the interzonal tournament for the world championship at Portoroz, and played for the Soviet Union at the Chess Olympiad

The Candidates Tournament of 1959 was held in Bled, Zagreb and Belgrad, and was a quadruple round robin with eight players. Tal finished first with 20/28 points, ahead of Keres, Petrosian, Smyslov, Gligoric, Fischer, Olafsson and Benko. He won all four games against the 16-year-old Bobby Fischer. In 1960 he went on to defeat world champion Mikhail Botvinnik, becoming the youngest ever world champion (at 23). He held the title for just one year, and was defeated in 1961 by Botvinnik in the return match.

In spite of failing health Tal continued to play successfully in a number of Candidates Tournaments, losing in 1965 only in the final to Boris Spassky, in 1968 in the semi-final to Viktor Korchnoi, and in 1980 in the quarter-final to Lev Polugaevsky. He won the Soviet Championship four more times. In 1979 he finished equal first with Anatoly Karpov in the 1979 Montreal “Tournament of Stars”, and in 1988, at the age of 52, he won the famous World Championship in Blitz in St John’s, Canada, in a 32-player field that included Kasparov and Karpov. The first prize was $50,000.

Mikhail Tal was known as “The Magician from Riga” for his incredible tactical feats on the chessboard. He was the world’s greatest attacking player, often sacrificing material speculatively in search for the initiative, creating threats to which his opponents found it almost impossible to respond. Tal managed to conjure up complications in almost any position and was almost always able to solve the ensuing problems better than his opponent. He played close to 3000 games during his career, winning more than 65 percent of them.

For decades Tal suffered from bad health and had to be hospitalized frequently throughout his career. He was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker. On June 28 1992, Mikhail Tal died of kidney failure in a Moscow hospital.

Remembering Misha

Mikhail Tal, the Chess Player Ahead of Chess

By Lev Khariton

I remember well the last day of June in 1992. Exactly ten years ago! I had a habit of dropping in, almost every week, at “Damier de l’Opera”, the wonderful chess shop in the center of Paris. I loved to see the new books, to have a cup of coffee, to chat with friendly salesmen about chess and chess players. On that day, however, they met me with the tragic news of Mikhail Tal’s death in a Moscow hospital on June 28.

This news came as a bombshell. It seemed that Misha could not die, that he was not an ordinary mortal, that chess would always salvage him from the cold grip of Eternity. Tal was an unusual man, an unusual personality; even the now popular word ‘charisma’ can not embrace all his character and integrity. In this world there are many people who are totally dedicated to their art and calling, but only very few enjoy the rare joy of requited love. Tal knew this happiness: chess saved him more than once from diseases and disappointments.

Yes, Misha Tal made chess happy! He, as no one else, turned chess into an art, and he did it in our cruel age, when chess was treated as a science (according to Botvinnik) or a sport (according to Karpov).

Tal became an idol of young chess players of the late 50s. This was the time of the confrontation of Botvinnik and Smyslov, the two giants of positional play. Bronstein and Keres, the two brilliant talents, were still in their prime. Petrosian, the chess player with an incredible positional intuition, was scaling chess Olympus too.

Tal’s leap to glory was as speedy as unexpected. In 1956 the young master from Riga, played for the first time in the Soviet Championship tying with Polugayevsky for the 5th place, but in the two subsequent USSR Championships – in 1957 and 1958 – he wins the title of the Champion of the greatest chess super-power. In 1960 he crowns his unbreakable string of triumphs with his victory over Mikhail Botvinnik in the World Title match.

This match played in Moscow in the spring of 1960 is for ever engraved in my memory. Hundreds of chess fans who had failed to buy an entrance ticket stayed outside the Pushkin Theater watching on a big demonstration board the games of the match. I will never forget the famous 6th game in which Tal right after the opening moves sacrificed a knight. It was a challenge to Botvinnik, to all his followers who were trying to put the game into the Procrustean Bed of cold logic and algorithms. As if nothing had happened, Tal was pacing to and fro on the stage, and his famous opponent , who had scored victories over such legends as Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine, confronted with a surprise sacrifice was taking all possible pains to refute Tal’s daring decision. All in vain! Botvinnik had already few minutes left on his clock when Stahlberg and Golombek, the arbiters of the match, transferred the game backstage. The spectators were so excited that the atmosphere in the playing hall was more reminiscent of a football match! Tal won this game, and in spite of Botvinnik’s stubborn resistance, he won the whole match.

At that time Botvinnik, as practically all grandmasters, could not understand the secret of Tal’s triumphs. It was far easier for him to play, let us say, against Smyslov with whom he had swapped match victories in 1957 and 1958. That was the chess he knew, the chess that obeyed the ready-made laws. In Tal’s play, however, there was an ease reminding of Mozart’s music.

Tal’s over-the-board improvisations, the irrationality of his sacrifices coupled with all his outward appearance, his deep-set (demonic, or if you want, Paganini-like) eyes made his opponents falter. Some people were even sure that Tal possessed hypnotic powers.

Well, the language of literature or cinema is easier to understand that the language of chess, but I would risk to say that in the silent movements of Tal’s pawns and pieces there was some rebellious spirit, a strong wish to take in or even swallow some spiritual oxygen which was characteristic of the early 60s. It is highly symptomatic that as soon as the oxygen valves had been shut off, other chess players came in Tal’s place, and chess was, to a large extent, robotized.

Tal was (oh, how I hate the past tense!) a bully for his opponents only at the chess world. In every day life he was as charming and pleasant as no one else! He had a special charm, a special sense of humor. I remember his frequent appearances before the chess-loving public in Moscow soon after he had won the World Crown in Moscow in 1960. People used “to go to Tal”, just the way they went to the concerts of popular actors. For many years Tal came to Moscow in summer to play in the open blitz championship in the Sokolniki Park. I cannot even describe the pandemonium in this Moscow’s oldest park around Tal’s chess table. The younger chess fans climbed up the trees to watch Tal’s games from above! “The magician from Riga”, as Tal was called by chess journalists, was adored everywhere. For example, Svetozar Gligoric recalled that when he was playing a candidates’ match with Tal in Belgrade in 1968, many of his compatriots were rooting for Tal!

It seemed that Lady Luck was giving all her smiles to Tal. But it often happens that this capricious Dame suddenly turns her back on you and there is nothing to be done! Tal’s health was failing him. He could not boast of good health even in his younger years. His loss of the return match against Botvinnik in 1961, although Tal’s preparation was not adequate, could be accounted for by a serious kidney disorder. It is of interest to note here that although Tal was World Champion, he nevertheless agreed to play in Moscow, Botvinnik’s home town. Tal did not insist on postponing the match on account of ill health. This is so much unlike today’s champions who are ready to play even on the Moon in their hunt for the most lucrative prize fund!

After the return match between Tal and Botvinnik, Tal’s mother sent the following telegram to Botvinnik: “I wish my small Misha could follow in the footsteps of big Misha!” At the time I liked these words. Now I think otherwise. It is good that Tal was so much different from Botvinnik. He was always democratic: he could come to a chess club and play blitz with any patzer! He had a nice word for every chess player regardless of his qualification. Tal, to use the now popular expression, loved chess in himself, but not himself in chess.

Not only diseases and hospitals befell Tal. He knew the “iron heel” of chess administrators in the Soviet Union. How many times before important tournaments abroad he was summoned to the offices of high-ranking bureaucrats and he had to sign papers promising that he would take the first place! It is difficult to imagine the humiliation of the great chess player when the Soviet Chess Federation refused him to play in the USSR Championship in his hometown Riga in 1970!

I often asked myself why Tal had not emigrated, like many Soviets, to Israel or the USA? He would have played chess much more and, probably, he would have taken better care of his health. His wife Gelya, who knew him better than all his friends, once told me: “No, Misha would never quit his Riga – all his friends and all his life are there. Besides, he hopes that one-day Latvia would be free. So, we will be abroad, not in the USSR!”

Geniuses are special people. They are always ahead of their time. Tal, I think, was ahead of chess – he made risk and intuition the principal driving forces on the chessboard, and the world’s best chess players today are in debt to Tal. Tal’s chess heritage is part of human culture. In the ever changing kaleidoscope of daily life his legacy has remained almost unexplored and it is waiting for a profound, in-depth and systematic research.

When we speak about someone who has lived a short and bright life, we say: such a short and long life! Thinking about Mikhail Tal, I would say: great and simple life! One of the Biblical wisdoms states that a real man can be judged by the way he behaves when he is angry, by the number of his friends and by his attitude to money. No one ever saw Tal angry. His friends are more than numerous. And he never had any craving for money. All this added to his creative inspiration makes him transparent before God Almighty, and that makes up, without doubt, the philosophical and moral essence of his life.

The whole world will always remember and miss Misha Tal!


Bobby Fischer’s Dumbest Move

This is old and dated, but I like the cynicism and wit of the article… note that this is from the UNOFFICAL, NOT SANCTIONED Fischer website. The official Fischer website is http://www.fischer.jp/

Bobby Fischer’s Dumbest Move

Was this heavy, bearded, balding guy Bobby Fischer? Last time we saw him, twenty years ago, he was a bonily handsome chess prodigy who in Reykjavik in 1972 snatched the world title away from the Soviet world champ, Boris Spassky, as rudely as if Spassky had stolen it from him.

Which, in a way, he had. The Soviets had schemed to save their successive champions from a showdown with the Brooklyn kid, until in 1971 he went through the world’s toughest competition like a mad rhino at a garden party, winning 15 games in a row at a level where the players usually read each other’s minds and agree to draw. It was astounding. Finally Spassky had to face him.

Andre Malraux once observed, apropos of politics, overturning the chessboard is not a chess move. Andre Malraux never met Bobby Fischer. The big question at Reykjavik was not whether Fischer would win, but whether he would show up. He fought petulantly over the playing conditions and arrived late, forfeiting one game. No matter; he won easily. But he refused to show for his first title defense, in 1975. And was the last we heard from him.

Since then, rumor has placed him in darkest California, joining an apocalyptic sect. Like everything else he did, it surprised, but it figured, in some obscure way.

So it surprised, but it figured, he should reappear in . . . well, Yugoslavia, for lack of a better word, where (war? what war?) he announced he was defending his title (in his own mind he’d never lost it) against Spassky, for the lion’s share of a $5-million purse. Pushing fifty, he was accompanied by a 19-year-old girlfriend, just when the reading public was fretting over Soon-Yi Previn. Then again, she was the first female Bobby had ever been seen with.

At his first press conference, Fischer held up a letter from some outfit billing itself the U.S. Government, warning him whereas and hereby, etc., he was forbidden to play chess in Yugoslavia, under penalty of fine and imprisonment. “This is my answer,” Fischer said, spitting on the letter. Yes, it was the real Bobby, all right. You gotta like this guy.

Then came the real gaspers. He said he hadn’t paid income taxes since 1976 and wasn’t going to start now. He called the recent top whadayacallem Soviet, Russian players “some of the lowest dogs around,” and charged they’d been fixing games and he could prove it. He asked why there were sanctions against Yugoslavia but not Israel. He said he wasn’t anti- Semitic because he’s pro-Arab and Arabs are Semites too, you know. He said Communism –”Bolshevism,” he quaintly called it was “a mask for Judaism,” which must have come as news to the host country, not to mention Fidel Castro and Kim Il-sung. (If North Korea isn’t goyish, the term may be meaningless.)

You didn’t have to belong to the Amen Corner to be left wheezing by all this. But you could look on the bright side: at least Bobby’s not a monomaniac about chess any more. He thinks globally now, though not, admittedly, in the Al Gore vein. You can even argue he’s a refreshing presence in this election year, just about equidistant from “family values” and “compassion” and “saving the earth.” As I say, you gotta like this guy, especially if your name is Abu Nidal.

The whole performance raised little questions like where he means to live the rest of his life, having publicly provoked the State Department, the IRS, and maybe Mossad into the bargain. He didn’t give the impression he was thinking ten moves ahead, unless he plans to play chess by mail from a small cell.

Editorialists did their stuff. The New York Post called for his prosecution for violating UN sanctions. Chess experts said he was probably rusty after being away from competitive chess for two decades.

So Bobby sat down at the chessboard and whipped Spassky with what one analyst called a “stroke of genius” on the 42nd move. He played erratically over the next few games, but soon had a 5 to 2 lead. His fifth victory was hailed as a classic, featuring a novel attack trapped Spassky by the 15th move. I have to take the experts’ word on this: like most Americans, I don’t know Ruy Lopez from Garcia y Vega.

OFF THE BOARD, though, where the rest of us can judge, Bobby’s moves are not so smart. It’s too bad he doesn’t have someone to tone him down a little. Father Coughlin, say. He may soon learn the relative strength of the Intergalactic Zionist Conspiracy and the Internal Revenue Service. (All civics books should start with the Sixteenth Amendment.)

Should Bobby go to prison? The answer, of course, is: Hell, no. There are people you just have to put up with, and sometimes the most brilliant are also the crankiest. Greatness on Fischer’s scale is so rare in any activity, when it comes along, the world, including officialdom, should gratefully let it be, unless he robs, rapes, or kills.

This, however, is not how governments look at it. They tend to take the view at risk of oversimplifying — they want your money, now. Bobby hasn’t quite grasped this. It might avert possible misunderstandings by naive chessplayers if they replaced George Washington with the IRS Commissioner on the dollar bill, and excised a few misleading words from “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

National Review, October 19, 1992


Are you a Chess addict?

Hi, my name is Daniel, and I’m a Chess addict…

From ChessPatzer I was directed to this list, sure signs of being a chess addict. If you answer yes to these questions, run to your nearest Chess Club, or log on to your favorite online chess site….

You know you are a chess addict if:

  • you bump into someone or something and say J’adoube.
  • you set up a chess set with salt and pepper shakers and food items when you sit at a checkered tablecloth.
  • you calculate 8×8 faster than 7×7
  • you have more chess clocks than watches
  • you buy the biggest, fastest, most expensive computer just to play chess on it or use it as a database
  • mate, mating positions, exposed bishops, and forking the queen have nothing to do with sex
  • you take a chess set and book to the bathroom, and forget to go to the bathroom
  • you meet someone, your first question is, “What’s your rating?”
  • every week you downloaded every game from The Week in Chess, in ChessBase 6, ChessBase, and PGN format
  • you buy a newspaper only if it has a chess column in it
  • you still think Bobby Fischer is a hero, despite his radio interviews and his 9/11 comments, who will come back the the U.S. and take on the rest of the world again.
  • you have more chess books than any other book or magazine combined
  • the Olympics are every two years
  • you spot the chessboard set up wrong in every movie with a chess scene
  • you who know exactly what James Bond movie the above scene was taken from
  • you name any of your pets Fischer, Tal, Karpov, Kasparov, Fritz, Chess (not Checkers) or Alekhine
  • your favorite movie is “Searching for Bobby Fischer” or “The Luzhin Defense”
  • you have checkered underwear with “It’s your move” on the front
  • you have fantasies of mating one of the Polgar sisters or (that’s checkmating)
  • have a crush on Irina Krush
  • your favorite snack is Pepperidge Farm’s Chessmen cookies
  • you have the 2003 International Chess Calendar hanging up in front of you with your name on one of the calendar dates
  • you have the “Chessplayers make better mates” bumper sticker on your car or briefcase
  • you know what BCO, ECO, MCO, NCO, PCO all mean and have all these books
  • you ask girl if she plays chess before you ask her out for a date
  • you end your letters and email with “P.S. 1.P-K4 (or 1.e4)” hoping to start a game
  • you drop everything and quickly spin around if you hear someone say, “Hi, Bobby” at a chess tournament
  • you take a test, and 5 minutes before you run out of time, you mentally tell yourself that your flag is about to fall
  • you have your name on a brick in front of the Chess Hall of Fame
  • you go to any Barnes and Noble in the world and know exactly where all the chess books are located
  • you reply to messages found on rec.games.chess
  • you post new messages looking for your only friends on rec.games.chess
  • when the cashier says, “Check?” you wink and say “mate”
  • you have a chess logo on your letterhead or shirt
  • tries to play cards blindfolded
  • wants the child’s nursery to have black and white squares
  • uses chessboard cufflinks and tie clips
  • only time voted was in the USCF election
  • has a chess mug for coffee
  • a Bishop scandal is someone who puts his Bishop on the wrong colored diagonal
  • fantasizes of also beating Mr Spock in 3-D chess
  • still thinks Kasparov is world champion and has always been world champion since beating Karpov in 1985
  • going to a chess tournament and can’t wait in saying “Look at those chess nuts boasting by an open foyer.”
  • looks for three other friends to play bug-house
  • have used any of these aliases while on the Internet: Buttvinik, Caissa, Gata, Bobby Fischer, IvanCheck, Polgar, Jadoube, Kapablanca, KnightStalker, KibitzandBlitz, KnightRider, Pawnographer, Philidork, Queenforker, Rookie Player, Roy Lopez, TarraschCan, Zukertort, KillerMate
  • you have played the ghost of Geza Maroczy
  • you own a Harry Potter or Civil War chess set
  • you played in chess tournaments all year long and have almost made $1,000 (but you spent $2,000 earning that)
  • you have read all of this
  • 6.11.06

    Fischer Speaks

    From chessbase.com, a radio interview with Bobby Fischer from Icelandic radio…

    Fischer on Icelandic Radio

    The interview was broadcast again later that evening, and recorded by a number of chess fans. It was 50 minutes long, and contained an introduction and recaps in Icelandic. The German web site Deep Chess has posted an MP3 version with the Icelandic bits edited out. You can listen to it here.

    The sound file is 43 minutes long and should stream on your system. By moving the replay slider you can jump to the most interesting passages, for which we now provide a guide. In one particularly unusual section Fischer ready from a book by Vladimir Pozner. For those of you who cannot access the MP3 file or do not have the time to do so, some of the key chess passages are transcribed below.

    The first section – more than half of the entire interview – deals with Fischer’s problems with the Union Bank of Switzerland, one of the world’s largest, which transferred his assets, three million Swiss Francs (US $2.4 million or €1.9 million), without his permission and against his will, to a bank account in Iceland, where Fischer now resides. We reported on this.

    At 24 min 30 sec the interviewer starts to talk to Fischer about the United States, which he believes was founded and currently being run by extremists.

    At 27′ 16″ they come around to the subject of chess, and this is where you may want to start. They talk about the book “Parting with Illusions”, which came out in 1990 and was written by the US-Soviet journalist Vladimir Pozner, a well-known TV personality during the Cold War. Fischer reads from this book

    I remember Mark Taimanov, an International Grand Master and, at one time, a contender for the world chess crown, talking about losing his match with Bobby Fischer by the implausible score of six to zero. For those of you whose knowledge of chess is limited, I should make it clear that Grand Masters never lose matches by a score of whatever to nothing, especially considering that a draw counts for half a point and more games are drawn during a match than are won or lost. So when Taimanov fell to Fischer six-zip, it was a sensation that rocked the chess world. It was, in fact, such an unbelievable affront that the Soviet Chess Federation stripped Taimanov of his title as Grand Master of the USSR. Later, when several other Grand Masters were blitzed by Fischer, the Soviet Chess Federation realized its mistake, but refused to acknowledge it. To this day, Mark Taimanov retains the rank of International Grand Master but has not had his Soviet ranking restored.

    Describing his famous defeat at the hands of the future world champion, Taimanov said, “When Grand Masters play, they see the logic of their opponent’s moves. One’s moves may be so powerful that the other may not be able to stop him, but the plan behind the moves will be clear. Not so with Fischer. His moves did not make sense – at least to all the rest of us they didn’t. We were playing chess, Fischer was playing something else, call it what you will. Naturally, there would come a time when we finally would understand what those moves had been about. But by then it was too late. We were dead.”

    Gorbachev is that kind of a political player. No one understands his moves. Not until it is too late. And that is why, in my opinion, he was able to rise through the echelons of power, through the Young Communist League, through the party ranks, up and up, all the way to the Politburo, and even be elected to the post of general secretary. If anyone had been able to read his mind before that, Gorbachev would be dead.

    At 33′ 10″ they start to talk about the greatest players from the past century. Fischer:

    “In chess so much depends on opening theory, so the champions before the last century did not know as much as I do and other players do about opening theory. So if you just brought them back from the dead they wouldn’t do well. They’d get bad openings. You cannot compare the playing strength, you can only talk about natural ability. Memorisation is enormously powerful. Some kid of fourteen today, or even younger, could get an opening advantage against Capablanca, and especially against the players of the previous century, like Morphy and Steinitz. Maybe they would still be able to outplay the young kid of today. Or maybe not, because nowadays when you get the opening advantage not only do you get the opening advantage, you know how to play, they have so many examples of what to do from this position. It is really deadly, and that is why I don’t like chess any more.”

    Morphy and Capablanca had enormous talent, Steinitz was very great too. Alekhine was great, but I am not a big fan of his. Maybe it’s just my taste. I’ve studied his games a lot, but I much prefer Capablanca and Morphy. Alekhine had a rather heavy style, Capablanca was much more brilliant and talented, he had a real light touch. Everyone I’ve spoken to who saw Capablanca play still speak of him with awe. If you showed him any position he would instantly tell you the right move. When I used to go to the Manhattan Chess Club back in the fifties, I met a lot of old-timers there who knew Capablanca, because he used to come around to the Manhattan club in the forties – before he died in the early forties. They spoke about Capablanca with awe. I have never seen people speak about any chess player like that, before or since.

    Capablanca really was fantastic. But even he had his weaknesses, especially when you play over his games with his notes he would make idiotic statements like “I played the rest of the game perfectly.” But then you play through the moves and it is not true at all. But the thing that was great about Capablanca was that he really spoke his mind, he said what he believed was true, he said what he felt. He wanted to change the rules [of chess] already, back in the twenties, because he said chess was getting played out. He was right. Now chess is completely dead. It is all just memorisation and prearrangement. It’s a terrible game now. Very uncreative.

    At 38′ 20″ Fischer speaks about how he spends his time in Iceland. He is leading a “quiet, low-key life” there, the people are all friendly, and he hasn’t had anyone tell him that they were unhappy that he was there. Fischer says he hasn’t left Iceland since his arrival there, since he is afraid that he might be kidnapped and imprisoned again. He talks about the movie Road to Guantanamo and the scenes where some of the prisoners are giving problems to the guards. “They call some storm-trooper types, who are heavily armed. – body armour, helmets – about five of them come into the cell and beat him up. They did the same thing to me! Several times. When I was kidnapped at Narita Airport a whole bunch of guys jumped me. Twice when I was in Ushiku Detention Center these people came with helmets and body armour and heavy boots.

    At 41″ 20″ Fischer volunteers his opinion on the North Korea situation. It’s a short bit on the betrayal of the Dear Leader by China and contains no chess.